As restrictions increase to slow the spread of COVID-19, there are fewer motorists on the road. Drivers consist primarily of people that work for an exempted agency. This includes drivers in vehicles with a distinct black and white paint job with the words, “Highway Patrol” emblazoned on the sides.
“If our presence is out there, we’re going to slow traffic down,” said CHP Officer Shelley Wilson. “That’s what we’re out there for – to enforce that so we get people to slow down, to avoid collisions.”
Wilson said she has noticed less people out on the roads, although there is more telephone traffic as people deal with orders to shelter in place. Questions about road laws and logistics, such as trouble with vehicle registration when the DMV field offices are closed due to the pandemic.
On April 10, excessive travel was banned by Public Health Officer, Dr. Gregory W. Burt. The explicit directive superseded the previous “State Shelter Order” that was written 21 days prior with the intent of public safety as officials track the prevalence of COVID-19.
CHP is considered an essential governmental function of article 13.d of the order. A day in the life of an officer includes assisting in accident investigation, drug interdictions, DUI enforcement, and many other tasks that involve hazards on the road.
“We’re out there to enforce the laws, to keep people safe,” said CHP Officer Eric Morales. “Speed kills probably more than this pandemic.”
Although it is just another day in the office, Wilson said that the only thing that has changed since the outbreak of the novel virus is that there is a stronger awareness for using PPE and universal precaution.
“We are trying to take precautions by keeping ourselves at a safe distance,” said Wilson. “We’re still doing our daily job as usual.”